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Kidnapping charges result from the unlawful confinement of a person taken against his or her will, often by force. It is a crime that is usually classified as a felony offense in the United States. The severity of the punishment depends on the circumstances surrounding the crime. Stiffer penalties can be imposed when the victim is a minor, elderly, or otherwise incapacitated. If the kidnapped individual was abused, exploited, terrorized, injured, or killed, the criminal charges can result in a life sentence in prison. In some jurisdictions, the punishment may be death.
In the U.S., a person who kidnaps a child under the age of 13 years can usually be charged with a first degree felony, if there are aggravating circumstances associated with the crime. Sometimes, an offender will use the child as leverage to collect ransom money from a wealthy family. Other times, he or she may exploit the child, terrorize, or abuse him or her. It is a serious crime that can be punishable by up to life imprisonment.
Other types of kidnapping charges include false imprisonment. Regardless of the person's age, restraining someone without his or her consent is against the law. An offender is usually not allowed to use the defense that an underage child went willingly, even if that was the case. This is because a child younger than 13 is not of legal age to consent.
If a parent or guardian does not give permission for the confinement, the offender can be arrested for kidnapping charges. It is a serious crime with major consequences. If the defendant is found guilty of false imprisonment while committing other offenses — such as lewd and lascivious behavior, sexual battery, or child abuse — the penalty can be exponentially worse.
Parental kidnapping charges can result from the act of one parent taking his or her own child for the purpose of escaping, or hurting, the other parent. In some cases, a parent may be abusive. He or she may abduct the child to cause further harm. Sometimes, this occurs in the midst of a divorce, when a spouse is acting spitefully.
In the pursuit of purposely hurting the other emotionally, a parent may unlawfully remove the child from the other parent’s custody. In some cases, the parent removes the child from the family home for the purpose of hiding out in another jurisdiction. It also sometimes happens when a parent is upset about a family court judgment that is not in his or her favor.
On the other hand, a battered spouse may abduct his or her child to run away from the parent who is causing them harm. When this occurs, it is usually a battered victim who tries to escape an abusive family situation. In the U.S., there are certain laws designed to protect battered individuals, however. Contacting authorities and alerting them to the situation shortly after the incident is usually required to avoid prosecution for kidnapping charges. The child's willingness to flee is considered implied consent when the purpose is to remove the child from imminent danger.
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